Networking can be hard. It can be nerve-wracking, uncomfortable and unsettling. Once you get the hang of it, however, it's no problem-o and I'm here to help. Here's how to network well--a step-by-step guide! I started informally networking when I was a young teen, just getting involved with a local chapter of a national nonprofit and serving on their board of directors. Slowly, the formality of the networking began growing, and I came to obtain natural networking abilities from pushing myself into less than comfy situations. Once you realize that fear is natural and you'll have to get over that hump in order to flourish, it's all smooth sailing from that point on.
1. Recognize that this is not the end of the world. Say that your networking fails and you don't make any valuable connections. All right, so it's not the end of the world and we can carry on! This prepares us for the next round, and allows us to sharpen our persuasive arguments.
2. Hand out a million business cards. If the networking setting is a conference or mixer by nature, whip out a whole bunch of your business cards and don't be afraid to share them with people--no matter how influential they may be. I've handed my business cards to individuals with million-dollar businesses (and happen to work with someone who has almost hit six figures). No matter how low or incompetent you feel in comparison to the other individuals present, it's important that you don't let your fear and insecurities show.
3. Ask, then listen. I'm definitely guilty of this networking faux pas: you get too wrapped up in trying to speak about your own endeavors a million miles a minute that you forget to take a step back and ask questions about the other person's business, taking a minute to listen.
4. Come prepared. Do you have your elevator pitch ready? Practicing (or at least idealizing) your 30 sec.-2 min. hook re: your business or subject of interest is necessary in order to assure readiness and reduce your nerves on the spot. Know how to explain what you wish to translate early on to your listeners--it will be a phenomenal favor to you in the long run. People may have misconceptions about your business, and it's your job to know how to relay the information in a comprehensive fashion.
5. Study up. If you are aware of the specific group of people (or individuals) you will be speaking with, or if you have a general idea of the industry niche you'll be within, come up with a few solid questions you'd like to ask them that will truly impress their socks off (as they are equally interesting and inspiring people like yourself)! Showing that you intend to pay attention to them as well is key.
6. Relish the opportunity to make connections. Networking is all about making connections--who knows who and who does what. Collect business cards from others and take mental notes of who is currently working for what business or on what big project - you never know when you might need a helping hand of your own.
If you follow the tips I've outlined, I guarantee you'll be a #1 girlboss in no time! How did your networking experience go? Share in the comments any extra pointers!